by ALAN WILSON || Each year, my office joins others across the state and nation to recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We often focus on important themes such as consent, respect, and healthy relationships. And while education remains the priority during this awareness month, I would like to draw your attention to something you may not have considered – the impact of COVID-19 on victims and survivors in South Carolina.
During this state, national and global public health crisis, we are tasked with understanding statistics about sexual abuse through the lens of a global pandemic. This crisis requires many South Carolinians to “safely” quarantine in potentially unsafe spaces. Even if we set the context of the pandemic aside, the local and national sexual abuse statistics are deeply concerning.
- Based on 2017 data, the most sexual battery cases in South Carolina include individuals who range from birth to 17 years old.
- Every 98 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted.
- 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape.
- About 3 percent of American men – or 1 in 33 – have experienced an attempted or completed rape.
- From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies found strong evidence that 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
It is especially important during this pandemic to note that eight out of 10 perpetrators in sexual assault cases are known to the victim – a friend, an acquaintance, a family member, or even a spouse or partner.
The truth is victims and survivors of sexual assault are likely isolated and confined in or near their homes where sexual abuse may be taking place. In fact, 83 percent of sexual assaults occur in or near a victim’s home. Perpetrators of abuse strategically violate trust and safety, often of their loved ones, and that is why coming forward to give voice to silence may be challenging during this time.
Feeling safe as a victim or survivor may come with increased feelings of seclusion and inaccessibility during this time; however, domestic violence and sexual assault agencies and hotlines stand ready to assist and support. We urge you to call 911 in the event of an emergency or notify local law enforcement if you are in need of medical assistance.
One of our goals at the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office is to continue prosecuting sexually violent crimes. We are determined to enforce South Carolina’s sexual assault laws to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes and to support survivors alongside the sexual assault and domestic violence agencies in our state. Our office also continues to support the formalization and expansion of 17 Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) across the state through protocol development, statewide and local training, and community engagement.
If you or someone you know has experienced unwanted sexual contact by a partner, friend, family member, stranger or acquaintance, please reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-(800)-799-SAFE (7233). They offer free and confidential support to victims and survivors of sexual abuse. We may be physically isolated, but we are not alone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
(Via: S.C. Attorney General’s Office)
Alan Wilson is the attorney general of the State of South Carolina.
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